You Can Name a Newly Discovered Planet ~ Here's How


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Source:  The Leicester Mercury
I remember the process of negotiating with my wife over the naming of my sons.  What this led to wasn't quite an argument, but was certainly more than a disagreement.  Every married man knows the look, and I got the look when I insisted naming our oldest after my father, with a middle name, Lincoln, from a friend.

When the second was born, I stayed mostly quiet and let his mother name him.  Tyler Wallace.  A popular first name of the time combined with the name of his maternal grandfather.

Neither son has forgiven me.

Now comes your opportunity to get the look from most of the women on our good planet.  Or if you're a woman, you can enjoy the male half standing quietly aside as if to avoid a bloody battle they have slim odds of winning.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) are asking our help in naming the 20 to 30 exoplanets discovered since 2008.  The IAU is organizing a contest to be judged by the faculty of the University of Leicester Astronomy Department and publicized by the British newspaper, the Leicester Mercury.

The last exoplanet name accepted by the IAU came out of an online people's-choice contest organized by space-funding company Uwingu.  The winner was Albertus Alauda, a name put forward by Jay Lark to honor his late grandfather.  I assume he got the look from his female relations. Albert nee Alpha Centauri Bb is an Earth-size exoplanet, a scorching-hot world that lies a mere 4.3 light-years away.
An exoplanet does not orbit our Sun.  1849 exoplanets have been discovered in 1160 planetary systems as of  November 2nd, 2014.
As of today, these 20 to 30 planets have names like PSR B1257+12 A, about twice the mass of the Moon, or DENIS-P J082303.1-491201 b, the largest discovered**.  You can see why the IAU wants to rename them after getting the look from everyone on the planet.  ** (Who knows what the beings on these planets call their worlds.)

This is an opportunity custom-made for the writer of fiction.  Some of the names authors and screenwriters have given us:
  • Vulcan ~ Star Trek
  • Tatooine ~ Star Wars
  • Koozebane ~ The Muppet Show
  • Remulak ~ Saturday Night Live's home planet of the Coneheads
  • Rigel 7 ~ Home planet of Kang & Kodos in The Simpsons
  • Vega ~ Mel Brooks' movie Spaceballs
Other examples include:
  • Arrakis ~ Frank Herbert's Dune series
  • Bazoik ~ from the video game, Chex Quest
  • Caprica ~ destroyed home planet in Battlestar Galactica
  • Londinium ~ in the TV series Firefly
  • Magrathea ~ The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • Pern ~ the setting in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series
  • Planet Claire ~ from a song by The B-52's
  • Raxicoricofallapatorius ~ the planet home of the Slitheen family in Doctor Who
  • Solaria ~ Isaac Asimov's Robot series
  • Tellus Tertius ~ from the Robert A. Heinlein novel Time Enough for Love
  • Thalassa ~ Arthur C. Clarke's Songs of Distant Earth
  • We Made It ~ Planet in Larry Niven's Known Space
  • Zorg ~ where Calvin and Hobbes' Spaceman Spiff sets his gun on deep-fat fry to blast aliens
For a longer list of fictional planetary names, go to: Wikipedia Fictional Planet List

With 20 to 30 planets to rename, the IAU is asking for your help, either as a member of a group or as an individual, as long as we agree to play by their rules.

The contest starts this December, with the names you submit to be winnowed by a panel of experts at the University of Leicester's  Department of Physics and Astronomy.  The surviving names go to a worldwide vote, with the winning names announced in August 2015 by the Mercury.

Both astronomy clubs and non-profit groups as well as individuals must register to take part in the naming contest at the IAU Directory for World Astronomy website.
NOTE:  It's too early to submit names as a deadline for entries is yet to be set, although it will be in December.  The members of schools, groups, drinking clubs and individuals should start thinking about names as the window to submit will be short.
Each idea should be submitted with a detailed justification as why that name was chosen -- some examples will be available when the competition officially opens.

What names can be submitted?
  • 16 characters or less in length
  • Preferably one word
  • Pronounceable
  • Non-offensive
  • Not too similar to an existing name of an astronomical object
    • No names of pet animals
    • No names of a purely or principally commercial nature
    • No names of individuals, places or events principally known for political, military or religious activities
    • No names of living individuals
  • Only names that are not protected by trademarks or other forms of intellectual property claims may be proposed.
*  *  *  *  *
Story Source: Materials provided by University of Leicester. "Space enthusiasts are being given the rare opportunity to name a planet."  ScienceDaily, 6 November 2014

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